Ontario cracking down on distracted driving

Province will boost fines to a maximum of $1,000, drivers will also lose demerit points

Drivers in Ontario who flout distracted driving laws could soon feel a pinch in their wallets — with higher fines and increased insurance premiums.

That’s because the provincial government has introduced new legislation that increases the fine for distracted driving, such as talking on a cellphone or texting, to a range of $300 to $1,000, up from the current levels of $60 to $500.

Drivers convicted of distracted driving will also lose three demerit points. Currently, no demerit points are lost for distracted driving.

The penalty for “dooring” cyclists — opening a door into the path of someone riding a bicycle — will also increase to a range of $300 to $1,000 (currently $60 to $500) and the number of demerit points will rise to three from two. All drivers will also be required to maintain a distance of at least one metre when passing cyclists.

The province also wants to improve safety for pedestrians at school crossing and pedestrian crossovers — requiring drivers to yield the entire roadway at such crossings.

The bill was introduced for first reading in the provincial legislature on March 17.

According to current collision trends, fatalities from distracted driving are forecasted to exceed those from drinking and driving by 2016, the province said.

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